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Conversation between Joe Composeo and James Cooney – long-time friends and residents

A story by Robert Kanehl

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Conversation between Joe Composeo and James Cooney – long-time friends and residents

Recorded by Robert Kanehl

I knew him long before I ever met him, James Cooney joked. Once we met we became friends and have been so for 60 plus years.

What James was referring to is the fact that Joe Composes’s father Dom was his barber. While cutting James’ hair, Dom would talk about his son who was away in college. Often he would ask James to mail items to Joe for him, since the patron was on his way past the post office.

He could not take a test or go to a party I didn’t know about, James continued. His father always filled me in. on what Joe was doing in college.

Dom not only had this habit of talking while he worked, he also made his patrons part of his family.

He fed me, gave me things from his garden, or whatever her was cooking. James noted that often he returned to his home in Hartford with a bag of vegetables worth more than he had paid for the hair cut.

Joe noted that his father was well loved for his stories, not just about his son, but all his family and their ancestral home in Southern Italy. He mesmerized people with his stories.

Besides the haircuts, and the stories Dom’s shop on 1960s’ Walnut Street was noted for the TV. He set it up to watch the World Series. Joe explained. They brought in trunks and moved out the waiting chairs so there was like a set of bleachers for people to set and watch. Many people came in just to watch and talk.

Sometimes people looked in and said ‘oh you’re very busy’ and Dad had to say no, they were just watching the game, come sit down.

Joe remembered running home one day from the high school to Walnut Street in hopes of seeing part of the World Series Game. I get there about 3:30 and the TV was off.

What about the game, I asked out of breath?

It’s over; the guy threw a no hitter.

Dom was well liked by people who came from all over to get their hair cut. James noted that he started coming to Composeo’s because it was open on Mondays, when he was off work. The Hartford barbers were all closed on Mondays. Eventually he moved to Manchester.

Joe told of his father’s effort to own land in town, and elsewhere, but family issues ended his dreams.

But there is a Composeo Road, named for my Dad.

The road is in Coventry. The developer was a friend of my Dad. It seems that Dom push and recruited local residents to purchase the homes in the new development, because of his friendship. The developer thanked him by naming the road after Dom.

Besides family and friends the two remember one story the most. James remembered having to mail Joe a box of homemade sausage one day. The sausage was made by Dom, and James swears they are the best he ever tasted.

Meanwhile, Joe, when her received the meat, had not place on campus he could storage it and cook it. He approached the local Catholic Church father to ask if he could storage the sausage for a week at the church.

The father said no problem, so I left the box. A week later, I went back and it was all gone. The priests had eaten it all.

Like his father, Joe loves sharing his memories and James backs him up with his conformation of the facts and events.

Sitting with the two is like traveling in a time machine to Manchester of the 1960s.

It’s nice to have the opportunity to talk to students and others about the past, Joe concludes. It’s nice to show them what family and friendship means. You turn on a light when you share a memory.


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